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CHIPS Articles: Editor's Notebook, July-September 2007

Editor's Notebook, July-September 2007
By Sharon Anderson - July-September 2007
How many electronic devices do you own? Do you have an iPhone or Wii gaming system yet? Can you eat lunch without checking your Blackberry or run without your MP3 player? How many hours do you spend each day using electronic devices?

I ask because it raises interesting questions about the future of technology not only in media devices and their convergence, but also in how wireless technologies, IPv6 and faster, cheaper chips will affect how we globally connect with one another and live and work.

Sixty years ago, who could have predicted the immense power of the chip and the benefits and risks of the Internet? Certainly not Howard H. Aiken, who developed the first large scale digital computer, called the IBM automatic sequence controlled calculator, more commonly known as the Harvard Mark 1. A colleague of Lt. j.g. Grace Hopper's, who worked on computing firing tables for weapons, Cmdr. Aiken is credited with saying, "Only six electronic digital computers would be required to satisfy the computing needs of the entire United States."

Although this remark seems ridiculous now, many people shared this observation in 1944. In the same way many people thought that space travel was strictly a comic book adventure even though Dr. Robert H. Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket March 16, 1926.

Now fast forward to the 21st shuttle mission to the International Space Station, STS-117, which returned to Johnson Space Center June 23 after 13 days and 20 hours in space with Astronaut and Navy Reservist Lt. Jim Reilly as one of the crewmembers. Reilly is a member of the Navy Space Cadre and our cover story. This latest shuttle flight represents Reilly's third space journey, but more importantly, it signifies the strategic advantage of space, which can provide access for joint communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision navigation and timing, meteorology and oceanography, and missile warning for national defense. Who could have predicted this stunning power in 1926?

Think big — reach for the stars.

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Astronaut and Navy Reservist Lt. Jim Reilly at work during the STS-117 mission's first spacewalk, with Earth's horizon and the blackness of space serving as a backdrop. NASA photo.
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